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Monday, July 20, 2009

Heartbeat Hawaii

Heartbeat Hawaii opened last Friday in the Royal Hawaiian Theater, taking the vacancy that Waikiki Nei left last October.  Calling itself an action-musical that celebrates the spirit of Hawaii, the new show fuses martial arts, Hawaiian and Asian dance styles in a way to symbolize Hawaii’s fusion of cultures. But, the Asian influence far outweighs the Hawaiian—leaving me wishing that there were a few strong Native Hawaiian dancers in the mix, because there were none.

No doubt the cast in Heartbeat Hawaii are skilled dancers and athletes—leaping six feet off the floor, spinning in mid air and somehow landing on their feet in a fighter’s stance. I found myself slumping in my seat at times, hoping that swords, spears, nunchucks, or whips wouldn’t accidentally be hurled in my direction. No, this show is not your normal Waikiki hula show—thank God!—but, it was actually a refreshing chance to see traditional dances and martial arts from Asian countries.

A few favorite performances of mine included, in the first half:  “A Tribute to Japan: Tap Clogs” with women in kimono ‘tapping’ along to a drum tempo in traditional Japanese clogs. “A Tribute to Asia: Hair Madness,” a modern piece that had women flinging their hair in unison to beats of drums in a tribal-like procession.  And, in the second half: “Heartbeat of Pele,” a nicely choreographed modern dance with a masked Pele ruling the stage.

The quality of the performance drops dramatically, however, as soon as the dancers leave Asian-inspired dance and begin to dance samba or even a small amount of hula.  Another disappointing moment was the Epilogue, which came right after an outstanding Grand Finale of drums beating, dancers leaping and weapons flying. 

The Epilogue is what reminded me that I was sitting in a Waikiki showroom, watching a performance made specifically for tourists.  A young girl wearing a plumeria lei dances hula awkwardly onto the stage while singing the beginning of the show’s theme song “Hawaii is the World.” The entire cast then joins her in chorus as they sway back and forth to the song—and, all I can hear are the words “Aloha Aloha” ringing in my ears for what feels like forever, as I wish I had sat closer to the exit doors.

So, yes the show had its faults, but it had enough great moments to be very entertaining.  Would I see this show again?  Yes, but, only because my 3-year old son would love the martial arts spectacle and elaborate costumes that really define Heartbeat Hawaii.

Shows Tuesday-Sunday
Royal Hawaiian Theater,
Royal Hawaiian Center

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Posted on Monday, July 20, 2009 in Permalink

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About This Column

This Kamehameha Schools and UH graduate manages the website for HONOLULU. In her free time she researches Hawaiian genealogy, when she’s not out and about or taking care of her 5-year-old son. She blogs about Honolulu bars, Hawaii nightlife and entertainment.

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